A Final (?) Word on the Social Implications of the Head Butt

It’s only a matter of time until the first cultural studies dissertation is written on the head butt viewed around the world. In the meantime, Sharath Rao has a collection of observations from France, England and the U.S. Rojo points out

the subtle, restrained words of French “intellectual” Bernard Henri-Levy in today’s Wall Street Journal: Here is a man of providence, a savior, who was sought out, like Achilles in his tent of grudge and rage, because he was believed to be the only one who could avert his countrymen’s fated decline. Better yet, he’s a super-Achilles who — unlike Homer’s — did not wait for an Agamemnon to come begging him to re-enlist … no nasty remark will ever tell us why the planetary icon that Zinedine Zidane had become, a man more admired than the Pope, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela put together, a demigod, a chosen one, this great priest-by-consensus of the new religion and the new empire in the making, chose to explode right there.

Uh, sure, dude.

In Spiked, Mick Hume responds to Henri-Levi and those reaching for deeper meaning in football:

With the emptiness of public and political life, football has been blown up out of all proportion and brought on as a substitute for anything more substantial, as one thing that can bring people together…L’affaire Zidane speaks less about the real importance of Zidane and football than it does about the trivialisation of everything else…He has been set up as the figurehead of a proxy political crusade. Thus many leapt, on the dubious and highly contradictory ‘evidence’ of lip-readers, to claim that his butt was a blow for justice provoked by Materazzi calling him a terrorist, or even the son of a terrorist whore, and pouring racist insults on his head.,,. These arguments have pushed all the right buttons to resonate in today’s climate. Zidane becomes the militant wing of FIFA’s self-righteous, posturing crusade against racism …there is no deeper political or cultural meaning in a headbutt. What have been far more revealing of broader problems are the reactions during the ongoing l’affaire Zidane.

The desire to read meaning into everything today is a symptom of the absence of anything meaningful of substance at the heart of society. The attempt to politicise something like football is one result of the demise of proper debate where it belongs in the political sphere. And the desire to turn a sporting hero into a major victim and a martyr is a graphic illustration of the emotion-driven state of public life.

Oddly, Hume ends up siding with the soccer-centrics in the end:

At the end of it all, the great player was left looking like an overgrown adolescent who had lashed out in an emotional gesture driven by an overdone sense of victimhood and grievance – so maybe his reactions did have something in common with those nihilistic young terrorists and rioters and after all.


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